Completing the land register

The register of land holding in the UK is maintained by HM Land Registry which has been responsible for recording all transactions on land and property since 1862.

Our aim is to complete the register so that it becomes the definitive and only reference relating to:

  • the freehold ownership of all land in the UK. The register is not complete.
  • the value of every freehold. The register records only the value of recorded transactions.
  • the value of the land portion of the freehold. This is not currently separated out in the register.
  • the boundaries of every freehold. The register is not definitive on boundaries.

The register is incomplete because not all land has been involved in transactions since 1862.

HM Land Registry is a public body and the register it maintains is publicly available. There is currently a charge of £3.00 for each document provided by online enquiry.

Our aim is to make enquiries on a comprehensive and definitive land register free of charge via an online Geographic Information System (GIS) - click anywhere on a UK map to find full details of freehold ownership, land value, boundaries and transactions - as well as legal documents such as deeds. Data on the land register is already public so there is no additional threat to privacy by making the data more easily available.

Is this too big a task?

Companies House is a public body recording details of over 4 million limited companies, millions of company directors and registering over 500,000 new companies each year. Online searches for companies and directors are free of charge.

DVLC holds over 49 million driver records and over 40 million vehicle records. The data it holds is not public but the scale of record holding is not a problem.

Ordnance Survey (OS) started surveying Scotland in 1745, it was officially established in 1791 and it became "Ordnance Survey" in 1801. Its original task was to map the country for military purposes on behalf of the Board of Ordnance. The vast amount of data held by OS will provide the basis for the Geographical Information System (GIS) used for Land Value Tax (LVT).

There are about 25 million dwellings in the UK of which about 70% are owner-occupied with the owner probably owning the freehold. To this must be added the number of freeholds for land not used as dwellings: agricultural land etc. The exact number of freeholds is not known because the register is not yet complete. However, the scale of the task in maintaining a definitive land register should not be a problem.

Completing the register, and converting key data to digital, will take time. Those holding unregistered freeholds will require time to get their legal records together and to submit their details. We anticipate one year for this work.

We will also extend the register to include details of landlords, tenants and tenancy agreements - similar to the work of the Residential Tenancies Board in the Republic of Ireland. For more details please see the "Rental Sector" under "Homes and houses" on the policies page.

Background

No-one "owns" land in the UK, it belongs to "the crown" since William of Normandy stole it all in 1066 and made it his to "use and abuse as he sees fit". William granted the right to "hold" land to members of his family, to the church and to those who had supported him in battle. All land in the UK is still held from the crown as "free hold" under the Norman system of "socage".

Land has always been a symbol of power because it provides an opportunity to live off the labour of others via rent and tax. Holding on to land meant creating a system of laws with land rights at its heart and with those interpreting the law, lawyers, being the sons of landowners because only landowners could afford to have their sons educated in the law.

Magna Carta was about limiting the rights of the king in favour of rich landowners, the "nobility", not about the rights of the common man most of whom were effectively slaves under the system of serfdom. The English Civil war was about limiting the rights of the king in favour of new landowners, those who had obtained the freehold of land since the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

What data do we need?

Many of the records held by HM Land Registry are scans of printed documents. This makes them impossible to search.

The key date will be converted to digital and all future updates must be submitted digitally.

The key data will include:

  • GIS details of land covered by the freehold - including all boundaries.
  • Details of leins on the freehold.
  • Freeholder name and contact details.
  • Freeholder type: person, company, trust etc.

    Note: we will be replacing the concept of "trust" in English law with one of Clearly Indentifiable Individual Ownership.

  • Date freehold obtained
  • Amount paid for freehold.
  • Value of land when freehold obtained.
  • Previous freeholder name and contact details.
  • Previous freeholder type.
  • Date previous freehold obtained
  • Amount paid for previous freehold.
  • ...

Details of all freeholders, from the time of first registration, will be retained.

Land changes value all the time so the Valuation Office Agency will be responsible for updating the land register with current market value.

Land also changes value on change of use, e.g. when land is zoned for development, when a developer buys an option to purchase land subject to planning permission, when an option lapses and when planning permission is granted. Each change will be registered.